If there was an essential oil to cure “the gimmees”—the incessant greed and want my kids have for something more—I would buy it, sell it and be an essential oil advocate like you’ve never seen before. Because I don’t know about you, but in our house, greediness shows up more often than headaches, tummy aches and allergy symptoms. So if there was a cure all to keep the “gimmees” at bay, I would pay any amount of money for it.
In our family, with our two boys and their various ages, the gimmees usually have to do with Legos (of the Star Wars variety), stuffed animals, rubber snakes, and laser guns. (Go ahead and guess the number of items on this list I feel good about having around my house.) The number of times a week, a day, I would hear, “Can we look up something on Amazon?” Maddening.
It drives me crazy. After Christmas and after birthdays, the satisfaction with the toys they received lasts a solid three days, before they start making a new list for next year’s Christmas and next year’s birthday.
I remember reading parenting advice one time that said, never threaten a punishment for your child that makes your own life so much more difficult, you are less likely to follow through on it. For example, don’t threaten to cancel this year’s beach vacation because your kid is talking in a disrespectful tone—if you aren’t willing to actualyl cancel the beach vacation—punishing you and the rest of the family in the process.
I took that to heart. Maybe too much. I started to feel like almost all punishments were an inconvenience to me and why should I be punished? And the thing that continued to show up more and more and over and over when it came to the behavior I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fix? The gimmees. The desire for excess. The desperation for more of everything.
We tried all kinds of different approaches:
Amazon became off limits.
The toy section at Target was bypassed at all costs.
We started saying, “Thank you” to each other for big and little things—to those in the family and out.
We focused on gratitude more in our prayers at night.
But nothing was really changing, not really.
Then, starting around Christmas time this past year, I started doing some thinking. I thought about the Amazon packages I had regularly shipped to our front door for me—mostly with books, which, yes, was spending money, but can you put a price tag on learning and wisdom and falling into stories that capture your imagination and win your heart? The answer is no, but that’s a hard sell to a 6- and 8-year-old.
And the truth was, it wasn’t just Amazon packages that came to the house. It was packages from my favorite online shopping sites, and even though we were smack dab in the middle of the holiday season . . . there were a lot of packages that had no relation to gifts for other people, and were mostly what had caught my eye for myself. Also, there was the problem that my boys were often getting the mail, discovering these packages before me and then calling me out on them.
And that was when it hit me—taking far longer than it probably should have. It was possible, the gimmees my boys were experiencing were directly connected to the gimmees they saw manifested in myself.
So I made the decision. No clothes shopping for me. Until Easter. At least. Maybe even the whole year. Because I finally understood that the thing my boys needed most wasn’t a punishment that fit the crime, not a whole bunch of tighter boundaries and stricter rules, not a punishment that accomplished what I wanted, but didn’t inconvenience me. What my boys needed was a parent who modeled the behavior I wanted in them, in herself.
I wish this wasn’t the case. Truly. I love shopping. And I know how shallow that sounds. But I do. I love looking forward to packages coming in the mail. I love the feeling of wearing something new. But I didn’t love it enough to continue modeling a behavior for my kids that was developing a habit I hated in them, but tolerated in myself.
So I stopped. And it hasn’t made the gimmees in them go away completely. But it’s given me leverage for how I talk about it with them. It’s allowed me to become reacquainted with telling myself “no” to things I didn’t normally have to before, and more compassion for my boys when they hear “no” too.
Yes, I wish there was an essential oil to get rid of the gimmees. But I am not sure that would change my heart and the hearts of my kids. I wish there was a shortcut to do the work that needs to get done, but there’s not one.
I think we needed to go on this journey to self-control together. Because it’s hard. But we all needed to be reminded of that—not just them. And because only when I am learning it myself am I able to draw attention to the good it does in all of us, both now and later.
I still love a tracked package. Who doesn’t? But it’s different now than it was before. And my boys asking to visit Amazon? Doesn’t happen as often and doesn’t last as long. The down side? I’ve had some serious withdrawal symptoms, and worst of all, I’ve “punished” myself as I “punished” my kids—the exact opposite of what I read I should do. But sometimes the change we want to see in our kids has to start with us. Even if it’s hard. Even if it asks more of us than we want. Because sometimes the most effective way to parent our kids, is to show them our willingness to parent ourselves in the areas where we want them to grow, and we need to grow.